When you rent an apartment, you’re typically “stuck” with your lease for at least a year—so it’s important to make sure you’re in an apartment that you truly enjoy. On top of that, you’ll also want to make sure that you and your landlord or property manager get along and are on the same page. For this reason, there are some important answers that every renter should get from his or her landlord before signing the lease.
What are the Terms of the Deposit?
These days, it’s not uncommon for landlords to require some sort of deposit to secure an apartment. This deposit should be refundable at the termination of your lease, provided that you haven’t caused any unreasonable wear and tear or damage to the apartment itself. On average, the damage deposit for an apartment is usually equivalent to 1-2x the monthly rental amount. For example, if your monthly rent is $600, you can expect your deposit to be anywhere between $600 and $1,200.
Still, be sure to find out the specific terms of your deposit before you sign your lease. How much is the deposit and how do you go about getting it back?
What is the Rental Rate and Length of Your Lease?
It seems pretty straight forward that you should know your monthly rental rate before you sign a lease, but not all renters think to ask about what this rental rate includes. For example, will it include your utilities? What about cable and Internet? Also be sure to confirm the length of your lease; the standard is 12 months, but if you plan on being around for awhile, you might consider negotiating a longer lease term at a reduced rental rate. Considering 50-70% of tenants move out within one year, many landlords are willing to provide deals to those who can make a longer commitment.
What are the Terms for Breaking Your Lease?
Let’s face it: things happen. Life happens. You might sign a 12-month lease on your apartment, but what happens if you unexpectedly need to move for a new job opportunity after six months? Even if you don’t anticipate something like this happening to you, it’s always best to know ahead of time what your landlord’s terms are for breaking a lease. Will you be responsible for paying the rest of your lease, or will you have the option to find somebody to take your rental term over?
How Much can You do to Decorate?
Even if you’re renting, you probably still want your apartment to feel like home. Before you start making plans to hang shelving and paint your new apartment, however, you’ll want to talk with your landlord about what’s permitted in terms of decoration. Some landlords will prohibit you from nailing holes in the walls or even painting, whereas others will be more lenient and may let you paint and nail holes so long as you patch the holes and repaint the apartment a more neutral color when you move out.
What About Parking?
One commonly overlooked aspect of choosing an apartment that you’ll definitely want to talk to your prospective landlord about is the parking situation. This is especially important if you will be living in a larger apartment community where parking spots may be limited. Find out whether you’ll have a reserved spot (or if you have the option to pay for one). Some apartment communities may also offer carports to residents for a monthly fee.
What are the Pet Policies?
If you plan on bringing along any pets with you or adopting one when you move in, you’ll want to make sure you’re very clear on your apartment community’s pet policies before you sign your lease. These days, many apartments will allow pets but will require you to pay a pet deposit upon moving in, which is usually around $200 per month. This deposit may or may not be refundable. Some landlords will also charge a monthly fee per pet.
Also, don’t be surprised if your landlord has restrictions when it comes to breeds. For example, while dogs may be allowed, “aggressive” breeds such as pitbulls may be prohibited for liability reasons.
How do You Make a Maintenance Request?
Finally, be sure to inquire as to how maintenance issues are handled within the community. Specifically, what will you be responsible for in terms of maintenance and what will the staff be responsible for? For instance, you probably won’t be able to call maintenance to change your kitchen light bulb for you, but you should be able to rely on them to fix your broken refrigerator.
You’ll also want to find out how you should go about submitting maintenance requests and how long you can expect them to take to be resolved. Many apartment communities these days allows you to submit requests online, though you should always be able to call the leasing office or visit in person to submit one. For added peace of mind, look for an apartment community that has 24/7 emergency maintenance.
These are just a few of the most important things you need to know before committing to an apartment lease. Looking for more resources to make your apartment hunt easier? Rent Safari can help by allowing you to submit rental applications for multiple properties at once, thus saving you considerable time and hassle.
Disclaimer: This information is provided as a courtesy, and should not be considered legal advice or real estate brokerage services.